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Sessions ends with keys bills passed

The 2010 legislative session came to an end on April 29 at midnight when the House and Senate completed the 40th legislative day.

This final day is known as “Sine Die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.”

Because the General Assembly is constitutionally limited to a 40-day session, Sine Die was the last opportunity of the year for bills to make their way through the state legislature. With this deadline in mind, we worked long hours to ensure the passage of key bills that will affect all of us and our families.

Legislation that passed on the final two days of the 2010 legislative session include bills designed to expand Second Amendment rights, fund state trauma care and promote public safety. Bills approved by the House and Senate now head to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Senate Bill 291 and Senate Bill 308 both allow permit holders to carry firearms in non-secure areas of airports, such as passenger drop-off and pick-up areas.

Supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), SB 291 also brings Georgia law into compliance with federal law regarding restrictions on persons eligible for a permit and creates an automatic renewal notification process for permit holders. The bill further strengthens the Second Amendment by prohibiting firearm seizure and registration by government officials.

Senate Resolution 277 will allow Georgia voters to decide if the state should institute a $10 annual fee on passenger vehicle tags to support our statewide trauma network.

I served on the study committee on trauma a couple of years ago and saw the grave importance of our trauma network. Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville is the only trauma center south of Savannah, Macon and Columbus. Many lives are at stake if they cannot reach a trauma center within the first hour, called the “golden hour.” If this constitutional amendment is approved by Georgia voters in the upcoming November general election, the resulting funds would go into a special trust fund separate from general state revenues with the specific purpose of funding our trauma network.

Senate Bill 360 bans texting while driving for all drivers in Georgia, and House Bill 23 bans all cell phone use for 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Unfortunately, cell phone usage by drivers has already resulted in minor to fatal traffic accidents. Together these bills will help ensure that drivers on Georgia roads stay focused and do not become distracted by cell phones.

Senate Bill 458, which also passed this week, will now require adults in pickup trucks to wear seatbelts. This legislation is expected to save 21 lives and prevent 300 injuries each year, which could save $30 million in hospital costs a year. Trucks in use for agriculture purposes are exempt.

I was personally proud to sponsor House Bill 1106, which is now waiting the governor’s consideration. HB 1106 may help save pets picked up by animal shelters for possible euthanasia. It requires that all animals be scanned for the presence of a microchip so they may be reunited with their owners.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Fiscal Year 2011 budget passed the House and Senate. Totaling $17.8 billion, the budget shows a $3.3 billion decrease from last year due to the current economic recession. Despite these cuts, we were able to fund the Georgia Council for the Arts and our state’s Education Technology Centers. I was also pleased to see that the budget does not include any state-mandated furlough for teachers and other state employees. Despite this difficult economy, with responsible fiscal management we were able to approve a balanced budget without raising taxes.

Now that the legislative session has ended, I look forward to spending more time in the district. Although the session is over, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns that you might have regarding state government.

Thank you, as always, for allowing me to represent you in the Georgia House of Representatives. I live in a great part of the state and I consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to serve.

Rep. Gene Maddox